Standards at Stantonbury International School have fallen to such an extent that the Department of Education has lost all confidence in its sponsor to run it.
In a rare move, academy chain The Griffin Trust is to have its funding withdrawn to run the school from July next year. And already MK Council is demanding to have it back under local authority control as soon as possible.
The Citizen has seen a letter to the Trust written yesterday by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Elizabeth Berridge to Griffin Trust chair of trustees Trevor Edinborough. It states there is a “lack of evidence that that the trust has the capacity to make the rapid and sustained improvements required at the academy…There is a very real risk that performance will not improve, and children will not receive the education they deserve.”
SinceThe Griffin Trust took over Stantonbury in 2016, the 1,600-pupil school has received two of the worst possible ratings from Ofsted. After a visit earlier this year it was declared inadequate and placed in special measures, with the inspectors stating: “Many pupils do not feel safe attending this school…They feel intimidated by others.”
The trust was given a chance to set out an improvement plan, but regional schools commissioners were not impressed.
Ms Berridge said there was little evidence to show how The Griffin Trust would address key issues in the Ofsted report such as the “chaotic behaviour”
in the classroom, poor attendance and excessive staff workload.
“Overall, the plan demonstrates what it wants to achieve but there is very little detail about how it intends to do this,” her letter states.
It adds: “The representations offered by the trust lack evidence that that the trust has the capacity to make the rapid and sustained improvements required at the academy…The evidence from Ofsted and from pupil outcomes from the last three years indicate that the unacceptable standards at Stantonbury did not come about, as the trust describes, as the result of a “lapse in rigour” but is, in fact, more fundamental.”
The letter concludes: “Having reviewed the representations made by the trust, I too have concluded that the school would improve more quickly with a stronger trust with a track record of secondary school improvement and have therefore decided in accordance with section 2A of the Academies Act 2010, to terminate the funding agreement for the Academy by 1 July 2021.”
The government could now ‘rebroker’ the school to another sponsor, but already leading Milton Keynes councilors are saying it should be allowed to come back under local authority control.
They are also demanding an apology from the government for allegedly “forcing” it to become an academy in the first place.
Cllr Zoe Nolan, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, will be writing to government ministers to request an apology.
“I will also ask for an investigation into why they have let the children of Milton Keynes down over a four year period and why hundreds of thousands of pounds were wasted in doing so.. At the time of being forced to become an academy the school had debts of over £700,000 which Milton Keynes Council was forced to pay from reserves,” she said.
Cllr Nolan added: “The failure of The Griffin Trust is shocking and highlights that turning schools into academies does nothing to improve standards. Milton Keynes Council will demand the school is returned to local control so we can rebuild trust and standards. We want Stantonbury Campus back as a locally run school.
“The children and parents in Milton Keynes have been let down by years of inaction by Ofsted, the Department for Education and our Conservative MPs who simply wanted to ignore the problem because it suited their ideology of turning school into academies. The taxpayers of Milton Keynes were forced to pay £700,000 to turn the school into an academy, now I think we are owned an apology for years of failures to tackle this issue.”
She concluded: “Staff at the school are working very hard right now and it must be a difficult time. Government ideology and management have let them down and has let our children down. Its time to return the school to local control and accountability.”
The Griffin Trust runs 13 schools over the Midlands and South East of England.